Wednesday night my arse was deposited firmly in my chair, eyes glued to the television, watching Craft in America on PBS. Have you all seen this three-hour mini-series yet? If not, you definitely need to.
In a word, phenomenal!
The series is organized into three themed hours: memory; landscape; and community. Each hour provides the viewer a glimpse into the studios of a handful of makers, exploring how their art is informed/embodied by the theme du heure. Now, I don't know about you, but I find this type of televised process-related expedition to be riveting. So much so that I hardly paid attention to my current knitting project while watching the show, and that my friends, is saying something!
I love to hear artists speak about their individual processes. It takes me back to my art school days where process-related dialogue was the name of the game. I also love to hear artists speak about the detailed aspects of their respective crafts. Being the process junkie that I am, I revel in the intricacies of how one creates a masterpiece from a pile of stuff. It's truly a magical phenomena. However, the aspect of the series that really resonated for me was the fact that most of the artists profiled learned their craft either as apprentice to a lifetime devotee to that particular trade/process/craft/artform or they were taught by a family member, usually a parent or grandparent. I cannot tell you how awe-inspiring it was to gaze upon three female basket makers, mother, daughter and granddaughter, creating containers together, speaking to one another about their craft, forging a deep connection to one another through their shared creative experience. Really, it was mystical to behold.
Of course paying witness to these technicolor individuals upon my television monitor, masterful craftspeople able to articulate the ins and outs of their thaumaturgical trade, veritable spokesmodels for the handmade, provoked reflection upon my own craft-informed lineage and how important a role making has played in my life. My entire childhood, from toddler-hood to tumultuous teenage-hood, is heavily pockmarked with memories of spending time with my father and maternal grandparents engaged in creative exploration and discovery. I covet the memories of drawing and painting with my Dad, my father transporting me to and from classes ranging from the fine to the applied arts on evenings and weekends in an effort to hone my expanding skills, sitting quietly with my grandmother (Nana) in her den, our needles and hooks simultaneously enmeshed in knotting yarn while engaged in idle conversation, my Nana and I leaning over her dining room table, carefully pinning pattern tissue to unending lengths of fabric, bisecting scraps of wood with the blade of my grandfather's table saw, inhaling the scent of freshly cut lumber while my Poppie instructed me how to honor the grain. These memories are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There are so many more that dance about the recesses of my gray matter.
All of my childhood memories denoting the borders of my creative dominion have literally become the foundation for an adulthood devoted to making and sharing my skills, knowledge and experience with my mother and my daughter. The three of us spending endless evenings and weekends together engaged in myriad crafty pursuits such as knitting, crocheting, sewing and needle felting while simultaneously strengthening our shared bond through conversation, laughter and camaraderie. The result of which is a foundation for which my daughter's creative castle, if you will, shall find its supports.
This is my gift to my beloved child who has become my sister in craft. May she go forth into the world and spread her knowledge, skills and love of making to the ones she adores and cares for. In her my Nana will continue working her magic with yarn, thread and fabric. Through my child, my father's vision and talent will extend far beyond my lifetime. In Magdalena will my mother's efforts to heal her saddened soul through creative contemplation persist. Through Lena the fearless creative spirit that was my grandfather shall continue to think outside the confines of the proverbial box. By my daughter shall the history of our family's making survive and profit for generations to come.
You see, the process of making is more than mere object creation. It is history. It is the harbinger of both experience and wisdom. It is a transcendent force that connects we humans to one another as links in a chain from the present to the infancy of human history. A human history in which I am positive that some early human plucked a stick from the ground, cast an eye into the very essence of that stick and then attempted to transform the stick into something above and beyond its mere raw stick state, for we have always been makers. Craft truly is an essential part of our humanity. Taking this notion one step further, I believe that craft is actually the essence of humanity.
Craft, my friends, is power.